The UNESCO Survey on intercultural dialogue 2017 sought to evaluate the conceptual understanding of intercultural dialogue across member states and the extent to which this impacts current policy and legislation. It also identified the difficulties in gathering reliable and relevant data, and how policy changes could promote intercultural dialogue in the future.
The survey identified solutions which can be deployed across sectors, regionally and nationally, as well as ideas for sharing good practice in data collection and analysis between member states.
The survey noted that modern technologies – which have facilitated access to global media – and large population migration have resulted in an increasing number of cultures existing together in close physical proximity as well existing together in cyberspace. Over 47% of international respondents believed that intercultural dialogue was essential to promoting long-term peaceful co-existence.
The development and proliferation of social media had enabled communication between members of diverse cultural backgrounds but has also been used to promote hate campaigns. There are still many challenges in analysing comparable data between member states and there is a need to build a shared conceptual framework to effectively collect, analyse, and compare data internationally.
Respondents to this survey clearly recognised the critical importance of building cross-sector interdisciplinary networks and initiatives to successfully broaden and increase levels of dialogue across gender, faiths, social groups, ethnicity, and language and to integrate this dialogue into policy-making practice. The survey noted that respondents had not made the connection between economic development and intercultural dialogue.
The Intercultural Survey made key recommendations in the following areas:
– National government leaders should take responsibility for implementing curriculum changes and integrating cultural, citizenship, and peace education into the formal system, and for clearly promoting this in order to prioritise peaceful co-existence between mixed faith and intercultural communities.
– Schools and universities should promote dialogue between students and parents from distinct cultural backgrounds, not exclusively from Muslim and non-Muslim faiths.
– Support should be given for informal education, whose importance has often been overlooked and underestimated in promoting intercultural dialogue
The responsibility of cultural institutions for content
Cultural institutions, often run by majority culture members, should be encouraged to participate in interdisciplinary networks which seek to combat rising racism and xenophobia, violence and hate crimes in civil society and should prioritise more culturally diverse programmes.
Media organisations should be encouraged to become partners in national and international interdisciplinary networks in order to participate in a global campaign to promote peace at all levels of society.
Private and public-sector partnerships
Links should be established across the private sector, member states, civil society, and regional and international organisations to promote intercultural dialogue.
Since more than 90% of respondents to the UNESCO Intercultural 2017 Survey recognised intercultural dialogue was essential to combatting prejudices, stereotypes, gender inequality, xenophobia, violent extremism, and to promoting tolerance and fostering respect for human rights, the survey also identified multiple challenges in building and promoting this dialogue.
The survey highlighted that respondents recognise no enduring changes will be possible without building cross-sector interdisciplinary networks, which include representatives from local and national government, religious organisations, educational and cultural institutions, NGOs, UN bodies and citizens to share responsibility for promoting and furthering dialogue, with clear leadership and recognition at the national level.
The UNESCO Intercultural Survey 2017 concluded that until a socially and culturally diverse policy of inclusion, based on effective intercultural dialogue, is clearly articulated and led at a national level, it appears well-intentioned educational and faith-based initiatives may at best offer piecemeal solutions with limited local success, or at worst, offer complacent public sector officials the false appearance of leading a society working to promote social inclusiveness, understanding and long-lasting peace. The bureaucratic tendency to ‘compartmentalise’ cultural issues by handing them over to small, highly publicised, underfunded, ineffectual, and poorly managed regional organisations, otherwise known as the ‘sticking plaster’ approach is clearly no longer regarded as an acceptable solution.
The UNESCO Survey is timely and comprehensive. It accurately identified an absence of political will, lack of funding, national conflicts, and histories of violent interethnic conflict between cultural groups as hindering the promotion of intercultural dialogue and clear policies that can be implemented to combat this to promote peaceful co-existence between culturally diverse groups.
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